The relationships between maltreatment and foster care children's adaptive functioning

Katherine A Whiting, Fordham University


Previous literature has demonstrated that the age of a child and the types, severity, and chronicity of maltreatment have an impact on children's developmental outcomes. Little information is known, however, about how the combination of the four variables affects children's functioning. Similarly, there is limited research examining the impact of multiple types of maltreatment. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationships between maltreatment and the adaptive functioning and the prevalence of behavioral problems of foster care children. Child maltreatment was operationalized as a heterogenous variable, that is, types, severity, and chronicity of maltreatment, were distinguished; and these variables were examined as a function of the age of the child at the time of the foster care placement. Information on type and chronicity (number of prior CPS reports) were obtained from the Department of Social Services' referral forms. Severity was assessed by trained raters who read brief descriptions of why children were placed into foster care. The children's adaptive (using Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales) and maladaptive behaviors (using Achenbach's Child Behavior Checklist) were assessed within one month of foster care placement and again after a three-month adjustment period. Regression analyses indicated that severity, chronicity, and age were significant predictors of certain adaptive skills and behavioral problems. The more severe the maltreatment the lower the social skills and the higher the prevalence of behavioral problems. Children with no history of prior CPS reports, or with only one previous report, exhibited significantly more problematic behaviors than those with four or more prior CPS reports. Chronicity was not a significant predictor of adaptive functioning. The younger the child at the time of the foster care placement, the better his or her communication skills and overall levels of adaptive functioning. Younger children also displayed higher levels of behavioral problems. ANOVA analyses revealed that these three variables also yield significant differences of mean scores at Time 1 and Time 2. Types of maltreatment, as defined as the reason for the foster care placement, was not a significant predictor of adaptive functioning and prevalence of behavioral problems.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Whiting, Katherine A, "The relationships between maltreatment and foster care children's adaptive functioning" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825879.